The 1957 to 1958 Commission

A pennnant that was available from the NAAFI for the 1957/58 commission

A pennnant that was available from the ship's NAAFI for the 1957/58 commission

The Commissioning Ceremony at Rosyth in 1957

In July 2017, Terry Craig who was an electtrical mechanician on HMS Gambia's 1957/58 commission very kindly sent these newspaper cuttings about the commissioning of the ship:

Rosyth Ceremony

History was made at Rosyth Dockyard yesterday when the 8,000-ton cruiser HMS Gambia was recommissioned after a 12-month refit. She is the first major war vessel to be commissioned at Rosyth. Built at Wallsend, the cruiser was lent to the New Zealand Navy between 1953 and 1945 and saw action with the United States Third Fleet against the Japanese home islands. At the end of 1945 the Gambia was anchored in Tokio Bay and was present during the signing of the Japanese surrender.

The Navy Accepts £1,500,00 Refit

The cruiser Gambia (8,000 tons) was recommissioned at Rosyth dockyard yesterday after the first Scots naval dockyard refit since Rosyth opened in 1911.

The refit cost more than £1,500,00 and the Admiralty officially praised the Rosyth Doockyard men's job.

Image caption: Royal Marines drawn up on the deck ... ship's company on the quay - the cruiser Gambia is recommissioned after a Rosyth refit.

Inset: Vice-Admiral Pelly, admiral superindentent of Rosyth Dockyard.

Terry Craig is the sailor circled in ink at the center of the picture.

Terry also very kindly sent these photos of the commission:

HMS Gambia's joining pamphlet, 1957. Photo kindly supplied by Terry Craig. The electrical mess. The back row includes Allen Todd, Jock Patterson, and Strumps Hendry. Photo kindly supplied by Terry Craig. The electrical branch, 1957 - 1958. EM Brassington, LREM McArthy, ?, ?, REM Tony Sladin, ? Photo kindly supplied by Terry Craig. Terry Craig and his first fish. HMS Gambia, 1957. Photo kindly supplied by Terry Craig. JEM Stenner, Ted Sayers, Terry Craig, Taffy Pritchard, and Bill ? Photo kindly supplied by Terry Craig. EM Taffy Hayman (standing), EM Duncan Graham (obscured), and EM Lintern. Photo kindly supplied by Terry Craig. Taffy Pritchard, Terry Craig, Jan Moran. Photo kindly supplied by Terry Craig. Electrical Mechanicians Terry Craig and Ted Sayers; 5E2 Mess. July 1957. Photo kindly supplied by Terry Craig. EM Terry Craig, LEM Buffy, EM Steel, EM Lintern. 5E2 Mess, December 27 1957. Photo kindly supplied by Terry Craig. HMS Gambia, Christmas 1957. Photo kindly supplied by Terry Craig. Swimming gala at RAF Khormaksar,Aden on January 5, 1958. Photo kindly supplied by Terry Craig. Taffy Hayman, Allan Todd, and Terry Craig. All were Electrical Mechanicians on HMS Gambia's 1957/58 commission. Photo taken at the swimming gala at RAF Khormaksar,Aden on January 5, 1958. Photo kindly supplied by Terry Craig. HMS Gambia's Paying Off Pennant, Grand Harbour, Malta, 1958. Photo kindly supplied by Terry Craig. Geordie Todd (Allen?) and Terry Craig at Perth War Memorial, 2004. Both were Electrical Mechanicians on the 1957/58 commission. Photo kindly supplied by Terry Craig. Geordie Todd (Allen?) and Terry Craig leving Perth in 2004. Both were Electrical Mechanicians on the 1957/58 commission. Photo kindly supplied by Terry Craig.

Terry also remembers a little bit of trivia, "When we were stocking up with beer for our commission to the East Indies Station in 1957, a lot of it was stowed in between the bulkheads down below some storerooms. Inside the bulkhead was a painted flag of New Zealand. Must have been done when they stocked up with beer?"


This extract comes from Distant Drums: The Role of Colonies in British Imperial Warfare by Ashley Jackson.

HMS Gambia served as East Indies Station flagship in 1955-56 and again in 1957-58. Band Corporal Michael Hutton served aboard the cruiser during her 1957-58 commission. She sailed from Chatham on 17 October 1957 to relieve HMS Ceylon, then the East Indies Station flagship. The two ships met at Bahrein, where, on 6 November 1957, Gambia received the flag of the Commander-in-Chief East Indies Station. Gambia spent a month visiting places such as Um Qassar, Abadan, and Basra, 'where the ship's concert party gave its first performance, then back to Aden for Christmas.'

On board were twenty-five Somalian ratings under Chief Tindal, Noor Sulliman, a man with thirty-two years of Royal Navy experience behind him. They had been collected from British Somaliland on the way, and remained working on board the ship throughout its commission. Whilst in the Gulf Gambia took part in Exercise Crescent, a NATO and Baghdad Pact exercise involving the cruiser and two frigates from Britain, along with vessels from America, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey.

After Christmas the ship sailed for Ceylon via Berbera in British Somaliland, where the band Beat Retreat on the beach. At Trincomalee half the ship's company went on leave, after which the Indian Cruise began, bringing visits to Madras, Vizagapatan, and Calcutta. Returning to Ceylon for minor repairs in dry dock, the crew went to the rest camp at Diyatalawa. Most of the band members were billeted with tea planters families, though Hutton spent a dry week with the Reverend Tom Arnold, who 'played a mean piano' but was 'a bit short on the hard stuff.'

After Ceylon, Gambia visited the west coast of India and called at Malé in the Maldives, where the band performed numerous concert parties and Beat Retreat. It was then on to Bombay, and, the Indian Cruise at an end, to Aden, 'where we stayed for some time due to local trouble'. A second Persian Gulf Cruise was cancelled, so the ship returned to Ceylon for the annual JET exercises, stopping off for a week in Karachi en route. 'Here there were many engagements to cope with, cocktail parties, dinners ashore at the High Commissioner's residence, and return visits on the Gambia.' The last week of the JET exercises were spent ashore by the band, who had acted as lookouts whilst the ship was at defence stations during the exercise.

Now the task was to train with the Indian and Ceylon Navy Bands for the combined Massed Bands Retreat that would herald the end of the JET exercises. HMS Gambia then embarked on 'the best and busiest part of the year, the East African Cruise, lots of hard work ahead but plenty of pleasure too.' Mauritius, the Seychelles, Dar-es-Salaam, Zanzibar, and Mombasa were visited before the ship returned to Aden and then sailed home to Chatham.


Bob Jackson was a Royal Marine on the 1957/58 commission. In August 2017, he very kindly sent these photos:

Commissioning at Rosyth, May 1, 1957. Photo kindly supplied by Bob Jackson The Queen reviewing the Home Fleet in Cromarty Firth, Ma7 27, 1957 27/5/57. The photo was taken from HMS Gambia and kindly supplied by Bob Jackson. Crossing the Line, 1958. Photo kindly supplied by Bob Jackson Royal Marines on exercise in the Persian Gulf, 1958. Photo kindly supplied by Bob Jackson Paying Off Pennant. Valletta, Malta 1958. Photo kindly supplied by Bob Jackson


Sources

Distant Drums: The Role of Colonies in British Imperial Warfare by Ashley Jackson. Sussex Academic Press, 2010